We know this much by now: Donald Trump wasn’t going to be chastised in public, justifiably or not, without trying to save face and get even.
There he was Wednesday, before an audience at the Bethel United Methodist Church in Flint, Michigan., which is now famous for its poisoned water.
“Hillary failed on the economy, just like she’s failed on foreign policy. Everything she touched didn’t work out — nothing. Now Hillary Clinton — ”
Then came the awkward moment.
Pastor Faith Green Timmons walked up before the small group and said: “I invited you here to thank us for what we’ve done in Flint, not give a political speech.”
In the moment, Trump responded meekly. “Oh, oh, OK, OK. That’s good. Okay . . . ”
And with a politician’s toothy smile, he obediently returned to the topic.
He made a politician’s promise about the water.
“I will say that we can fix this problem. It’s going to take time. It’s amazing the damage that has been done,” he said.
Somebody in the small audience interrupted him with a question based on the 1973 federal charges of racial bias against his and his father’s management company.
“No,” he said of whether he discriminated. “I never. Never would. Never would. Never would.”
Video of the encounter went viral, of course, and Timmons said later that the Trump campaign earlier claimed “he was swinging by and stepping through only to greet the volunteers, with no political rhetoric of any kind.”
But by Thursday morning, Trump was ensconced in the political safe space of a “Fox & Friends” phone interview.
So, outside her presence and away from her jurisdiction, he started assessing the pastor’s demeanor in a more suspicious light.
“When she got up to introduce me, she was so nervous she was shaking and I said, ‘Wow, this is sort of strange,’ ” he said. “And then she came up. So she had that in mind, there’s no question about it. . . . Everyone plays their games.
“Something was up,” he said — his personal code words by now for other people conspiring to do harm in some clandestine way.
Never mind the “OK, OK, that’s good, OK” in the room where it happened.
As with so many politicians before him, a Trump account of his direct experience has a good chance of deviating from how others describe it.
“The audience was saying, ‘Let him speak, let him speak,’ ” Trump told his friends at Fox.
Observers said it wasn’t so. And the discrimination barb wasn’t the only one hurled at him in Flint.
In fact, Timmons can be seen on the video stepping in to defend Trump, saying the Republican nominee was “a guest of my church and you will respect him.”
“Thank you. Thank you, pastor,” Trump responded, as seen on the video.
The quandary is whether to believe the politician, or your own eyes and ears.